Niamh Fisher-Black has finished second in the young rider classification at the Santos Women’s Tour Down Under.  The 4-day stage race saw Mitchelton-SCOTT in dominant form courtesy of Amanda Spratt who took the overall title and stage 2 to go with teammate Grace Brown’s victory in stage 3, Sarah Roy’s victory in the points classification and victory in the team standings.

New Zealand riders have had a very strong account at this year’s Santos Women’s Tour Down Under.  In 2018 it was Grace Anderson, Mikayla Harvey and Deborah Paine leading the charge in the young rider classification (1st, 2nd and 4th respectively), with Kate McIlroy and Anderson also finishing 8th and 9th overall.

This year the New Zealand contingent contesting the race consisted of Georgia Williams of Mitchelton-SCOTT, Sharlotte Lucas of TIBCO-SVB, Elizabeth Stannard of Gusto StepFWD KOM and Cycling New Zealand’s national team of Deborah Paine, Elyse Fraser, Kirsty McCallum, Grace Anderson, Amanda Jamieson and Niamh Fisher-Black.

Elyse Fraser (centre) riding in stage 1 of the Santos Women’s Tour for New Zealand, photo Santos Tour Down Under @cauldphoto

New Zealand’s impact on this year’s race was strong from the start, with the national team ending stage 1 with the lead in the team classification.  Niamh Fisher-Black led the charge with 9th in the sprint; won by Trek-Segafredo’s Letizia Paternoster; positioning her third in the contest for the best young rider with Amanda Jamieson 5th, Grace Anderson 9th and Deborah Paine 10th.  It had been a day where breakaways struggled to gain ground and so with almost the entire field arriving together there were no time gaps between teams.

Stage 2 was the day where a break finally made their mark and it was Deborah Paine who was on hand to stamp her impression on the race.  Rebecca Wiasak of UniSA-Australia was her lone companion for much of the race; that saw them navigate the intermediate sprints and first QOM climb together before being caught shortly before the ramp up to the line.  Amanda Spratt was the victor, with Niamh Fisher-Black being the first Kiwi home and cementing her third in the young rider category.  Elizabeth Stannard of Gusto StepFWD KOM also charged up the leaderboard from 54th to 19th with a strong display that put her just 4 seconds behind Fisher-Black at the finish line.

The journey to Stirling, with another uphill ramp to the finish, provided Mitchelton-SCOTT with the opportunity to further stamp their authority on the race, and while Amanda Spratt successfully defended her overall lead, stage honours belonged to teammate Grace Brown.  It was also the stage where Grace Anderson – last year’s best young rider – had her best result to send her into the top 20 on GC; 12th across the line.  Her performance now put three Kiwis in the top 5 in the young rider standings with one day to go.

Deborah Paine leads Rebecca Wiasak during stage 2, photo Santos Tour Down Under @cauldphoto

Ending as they’d started, a bunch sprint would decide the finale in downtown Adelaide on a short 1.8km circuit.  Alé Cipollini finally got their stage win courtesy of Chloe Hosking who overcame stage 1 winner Letizia Paternoster and BePink’s Rachele Barbieri.  Amanda Jamieson was the first of the New Zealanders to cross the line in 24th place, with Grace Anderson 32nd, Elyse Fraser 33rd and Niamh Fisher-Black 39th; all with the same time as Hosking.

Overall that meant victory was secured for Amanda Spratt, who enjoyed a Mitchelton-SCOTT 1-2 with teammate Lucy Kennedy.  The news got better for the team – featuring national time trial champion Georgia Williams – as Sarah Roy took the win in the points classification and the team classification also fell to them.

Niamh Fisher-Black ended the tour 13th overall 3mins behind Spratt, a result that was good enough for 2nd in the young rider classification behind Jaime Gunning of Specialized Women’s Racing; with Elizabeth Stannard and Grace Anderson 4th and 5th respectively in that category.

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